WBEZ | Safer Foundation http://www.wbez.org/tags/safer-foundation Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en CHA launches pilot program for formerly incarcerated http://www.wbez.org/news/cha-launches-pilot-program-formerly-incarcerated-109932 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cook County Jail Holding Cell_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Housing Authority is launching a pilot program so people with criminal backgrounds can live with family members in public housing.</p><p>The family reunification program will allow 50 formerly incarcerated individuals to move back into CHA housing over the next three years. Normally, CHA prohibits anyone with a criminal background to live with relatives. This new program will also include residency in the subsidized housing voucher program, known as Section 8.</p><p>Once people leave prison they often have nowhere to go and return to neighborhoods with high crime and poverty.</p><p>Recently, <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fback-old-neighborhood-parolees-struggle-fresh-starts-109685&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNF84CwnJ3U0mSOlyQbLwesWEK3lbA">WBEZ analyzed 2012 data from the Illinois Department of Corrections</a>, and found that thousands of adults return to just a handful of Chicago zip codes after they get out of prison. For example, four West Side zip codes &ndash; 60651, 60644, 60624 and 60612 &ndash; had more than 2,400 parolees return in that one year alone. Many of these neighborhoods already have high rates of violence, unemployment and poverty. The large number of parolees living there becomes a collective burden increasingly hard to bear.</p><p>CHA CEO Michael Merchant said the family reunification program is important because it can &ldquo;support these ex-offenders coming out making sure they have stable environments. I think it&rsquo;s a win-win for everybody. The main thing is we want to make sure the ex-offenders don&rsquo;t become re-offenders out in our neighborhoods.&rdquo;</p><p>Those selected must be on a path toward self-sufficiency and rehabilitation. The Safer Foundation, Lutheran Family Services and St. Leonard&rsquo;s House are the service providers that will recommend the 50 people.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a big step for the city of Chicago to partner with people with criminal records...it will help them reintegrate into the communities,&rdquo; said Anthony Lowery, the policy and advocacy director at the Safer Foundation.</p><p>Sex offenders and people convicted of arson, production of methamphetamine in public housing and fraud with federal housing will not be allowed in the program. They are banned by federal policy.</p><p>The CHA board and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must first approve the pilot program.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a><u>.&nbsp;</u>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>&nbsp;and &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cha-launches-pilot-program-formerly-incarcerated-109932 Back in the old neighborhood, parolees struggle for fresh starts http://www.wbez.org/news/back-old-neighborhood-parolees-struggle-fresh-starts-109685 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.36.14 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>In 2006, Nelton Edwards and his girlfriend had a nasty breakup in front of her Austin home. She threw his clothes outside, and Edwards did something he would soon regret.</p><p>&ldquo;When she threw my clothes out I was too angry and stupid at the time to just grab them up, put them in the car and go,&rdquo; Edwards said. &quot;So I burned them up.&rdquo;</p><p>Edwards, 57, served five years for aggravated arson and is now out on parole.</p><p>&ldquo;The system is kind of unforgiving. Once you have did your time and supposedly paid your debt to society, it&rsquo;s almost like society doesn&rsquo;t forgive you,&rdquo; Edwards said.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/back-old-neighborhood-parolees-struggle-fresh-starts-109685#map" target="_self">Where do parolees live in Chicago?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The Austin neighborhood, where Edwards grew up, has 21 percent unemployment &ndash; and a large population of people with criminal records. For some, where you live can have a profound impact on how your life turns out.</p><p>WBEZ analyzed 2012 data from the Illinois Department of Corrections, and found that thousands of adults return to just a handful of Chicago zip codes after they get out of prison. For example, four West Side zip codes &ndash; 60651, 60644, 60624 and 60612 &ndash; had more than 2,400 parolees return in that one year alone.</p><p>Many of these neighborhoods already have high rates of violence, unemployment and poverty. The large number of parolees living there becomes a collective burden increasingly hard to bear.</p><p><strong>It&rsquo;s hard enough to find a job without a criminal record</strong></p><p>On a recent morning, a small group of job seekers fills out paperwork at the Westside Health Authority while community organizer Charles Perry gives them a pep talk.</p><p>&ldquo;If they can get you lined up for an interview, your record isn&rsquo;t an issue. It&rsquo;s just you selling yourself when you get to the job,&rdquo; said Perry, who helps match up his clients with employers.</p><p>Perry once did time in the federal penitentiary on a drug conviction; he understands the devastating effects of post-incarceration better than most.</p><p>&ldquo;The impact is great when you come back to a community where when you look and you can go through Austin and you see very few shops open. There&rsquo;s very few opportunities for men and women coming home as opposed to a community that&rsquo;s vibrant, that&rsquo;s growing where there&rsquo;s employment, new businesses coming in. You have communities like Austin, Englewood, Roseland, that&rsquo;s not happening,&rdquo; Perry said.</p><p>Yet those are the very neighborhoods that have the highest numbers of parolees.</p><p>As the prison population continues to grow that means more parolees looking for work in competition with others who have criminal records. In many of these neighborhoods, it&rsquo;s hard enough to find a job without a criminal record.</p><p>The generational cycle of incarceration in largely African-American neighborhoods can breed hopelessness among its residents.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Back in the old neighborhood, resisting illegal activity around him</strong></p><p>Tristan Flowers, 25, lives in his grandmother&rsquo;s gray frame house in Austin. It looks like a grandmother&rsquo;s house with framed pictures of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela hanging on the walls.</p><p>Flowers got out of prison last month after serving 18 months for selling narcotics &ndash; a charge he denies.</p><p>But Flowers sheepishly admits he has sold drugs in the past.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t lie and say I haven&rsquo;t. But the case I just got out on wasn&rsquo;t mine,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Flowers says his drug selling got him in trouble as far back as high school when he was expelled. But he learned a few lessons and eventually picked up some plumbing and carpentry skills.</p><p>In his grandmother&rsquo;s kitchen where he installed the laminate tiles, Flowers reviews a list of companies who hire people with criminal records. He wants to be working by springtime and has practiced his pitch to employers.</p><p>&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t let my past alter my future. He should be able to take that,&rdquo; Flowers says referring to a hypothetical hiring manager. He continued: &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll shoot a little smile at him or whatever the case may be and work my number with him.&rdquo;</p><p>Flowers&rsquo; tenacity may pay off. But he said a number of his friends and family are still involved in illegal activity in Austin.</p><p><strong>Feeling trapped, parolees speak frankly about ways to cope</strong></p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s limited to no opportunities in these communities. Employers don&rsquo;t want to come to these communities because of the fear of violence,&rdquo; said Anthony Lowery, the policy and advocacy director at the Safer Foundation. The nonprofit works with people who have been convicted of felonies.</p><p>&ldquo;The thing that I see as far as a person who lives in Englewood when I come out of my house in the morning, there may be two other men on the block who are working legal, gainful employment.&rdquo;</p><p>Lowery said schoolchildren don&rsquo;t see enough adults, especially men, going off to work.</p><p>&ldquo;But when they come back from school in the afternoon, they see the corners crowded with men with illegal activity, drug sales,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That kind of environment can be toxic and add stress to the community as a whole. So even those who don&rsquo;t have a prison experience are affected by the returning parolees.</p><p>Lynn Todman conducted mental health impact assessments on job-seekers with criminal records the Adler School of Professional Psychology and found anxiety, depression and low self esteem.</p><p>&ldquo;When you have large number of people with no hope of kind of integrating back into society because of their records, some people out of desperation will engage in activities that create fear throughout the community. Sometimes that means selling drugs, sometimes that means burglaries. That exacerbates or amplifies the levels of anxiety and stress in communities,&rdquo; Todman said.</p><p>The researcher said she learned something else with her Englewood focus group, but warns &ldquo;it&rsquo;s a very dangerous comment to put out there publicly.&rdquo;</p><p>After a bit of hesitation, Todman reveals that some men talked about one coping strategy in particular.</p><p>&ldquo;Sex,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That in a world where there&rsquo;s constant rejection and their self esteem is compromised constantly, they&rsquo;re always seeking ways of self soothing. Drugs is one. Alcohol is another. Sex is another. And they linked this to unwanted pregnancies and STDs in the community.&rdquo;</p><p>Todman is quick to add that this doesn&rsquo;t justify stereotypes of the hypersexualied black male. It&rsquo;s far from pathological behavior, she said. Other research shows sex can be a human coping mechanism for lots of people &ndash; including white middle-class men.</p><p>But the honesty of Todman&rsquo;s focus group underscores the ripple effect of joblessness and incarceration. Worse yet, many parolees suffer from poverty and can&rsquo;t afford to move out of their familiar neighborhoods.</p><p>But for those who do, there is hope.</p><p><strong>Moving to a new neighborhood to escape his past</strong></p><p>Nelton Edwards, the guy who went to prison for burning his clothes, is feeling good these days. He works at a suburban manufacturing plant. He left his drug use behind. And perhaps, most importantly, he doesn&rsquo;t live in Austin.</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, that was deliberate, that I never went back to the West Side. I don&rsquo;t care to live on the West Side of Chicago,&rdquo; Edwards said.</p><p>He had to move on.</p><p>&ldquo;My friends were over there they were getting high. We gambled, shoot pool, go partying. That was what I did. I started changing my life. I was getting away from that because it is people, places and things,&rdquo; Edwards said.</p><p>Edwards now rents an apartment in an affordable housing mid rise in the South Loop. The area&rsquo;s bustling with lots of retail, transportation and food amenities.</p><p>Opportunity he didn&rsquo;t have in his segregated neighborhood.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. nmoore@wbez.org Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343">Google+</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><p><a name="map"><strong>Where do parolees live?</strong></a></p><p>This map reflects 2012 adult parolee Chicago zip code data from the Illinois Department of Corrections.</p> <style type="text/css"> #map-canvas { width:620px; height:900px; } .layer-wizard-search-label { font-family: sans-serif };</style> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=false"> </script><script type="text/javascript"> var map; var layer_0; function initialize() { map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map-canvas'), { center: new google.maps.LatLng(41.840791157740036, -87.72695015869141), zoom: 11 }); var style = [ { featureType: 'all', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { saturation: -99 } ] }, { featureType: 'road.highway', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { visibility: 'off' } ] }, { featureType: 'road.local', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { visibility: 'off' } ] }, { featureType: 'administrative.province', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { visibility: 'off' } ] }, { featureType: 'administrative.neighborhood', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { visibility: 'off' } ] }, { featureType: 'administrative.land_parcel', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { visibility: 'off' } ] }, { featureType: 'poi', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { visibility: 'off' } ] }, { featureType: 'transit', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { visibility: 'off' } ] } ]; var styledMapType = new google.maps.StyledMapType(style, { map: map, name: 'Styled Map' }); map.mapTypes.set('map-style', styledMapType); map.setMapTypeId('map-style'); layer_0 = new google.maps.FusionTablesLayer({ query: { select: "col2>>0", from: "1JR6riVaswYAtH8K4TBkrBF-vI2fdVKPkpA56gkI" }, map: map, styleId: 2, templateId: 2 }); } google.maps.event.addDomListener(window, 'load', initialize); </script><div id="map-canvas">&nbsp;</div><p>* Note: 60608 has a high number, partly because it&rsquo;s the zip code for Cook County Jail. These particular parolees are arrested on new crimes and sent to Cook County Jail, which then becomes their new address&mdash;pending outcome of the new cases. They have not been convicted and returned to IDOC, so they remain &ldquo;parolees&rdquo; on the IDOC list.</p></p> Tue, 11 Feb 2014 13:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/back-old-neighborhood-parolees-struggle-fresh-starts-109685 Advocates say giving ex-felons jobs could curb violence http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-say-giving-ex-felons-jobs-could-curb-violence-108292 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ex-felons_130805_AYC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Advocates said new legislation that helps ex-felons find jobs could also curb violence.</p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Saturday signed laws that could result in lesser sentences for nonviolent offenders, streamline the expungement process and, in some cases, could clear a defendant&rsquo;s record.</p><p>Anthony Lowery is the director for policy and advocacy at Safer Foundation, a local prisoner reentry program. He said ex-offenders often come home to high crime areas.</p><p>&ldquo;They have the majority of people who have arrest and conviction records and who can&rsquo;t get employment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, young people don&rsquo;t see people coming out of the house going to work. They see people coming out of those houses standing on the corners.&rdquo;</p><p>Without job opportunities, &ldquo;they&rsquo;re in a hopeless situation,&rdquo; Lowery said.</p><p>Another law increased the tax credit incentive given to employers who hire ex-offenders.</p><p>Employers could earn up to $1,500 in income tax credit for each ex-felon they hire within three years after being released from prison. They can benefit from the credit for up to five years.</p><p><em>Aimee Chen is a WBEZ business reporting intern. Follow her at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/AimeeYuyiChen">@AimeeYuyiChen</a></em></p></p> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-say-giving-ex-felons-jobs-could-curb-violence-108292 State antiviolence effort raises eyebrows on West Side http://www.wbez.org/story/29th-ward/state-antiviolence-effort-raises-eyebrows-west-side <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/DeborahGraham.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Some community leaders on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side don&rsquo;t like the way Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s administration is doling out funds in a $31 million program to combat Chicago-area youth violence. <br /><br />They wonder why aldermen are involved and why the pastor of Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) is getting the biggest grant in the city&rsquo;s Austin neighborhood.<br /><br />Quinn&rsquo;s office and a state agency called the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority are overseeing the program, called the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. Barbara Shaw, the agency&rsquo;s director, says 205 community groups will receive funds to provide everything from jobs to mentoring and counseling.<br /><br />&ldquo;This is a very important program to provide a range of very important services that our young people need,&rdquo; Shaw says. &ldquo;Smaller agencies, larger agencies, the faith-based community&mdash;[we&rsquo;re] really trying to pull together the variety of organizations to be a part of being there for kids.&rdquo;<br /><br />The state&rsquo;s first step was choosing a lead agency last fall in each of 23 city neighborhoods and suburbs targeted for help.<br /><br />Here&rsquo;s the thorny part. Instead of putting out an open request for proposals, the state asked individual Chicago aldermen to recommend the lead agencies. Shaw says that saved time and will help get the services out faster.<br /><br />But an alderman&rsquo;s role in Chicago&rsquo;s Austin neighborhood has led to some stark accusations. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s business as usual,&rdquo; says Mary Russell Gardner, who&rsquo;s running in the 29th Ward aldermanic race. &ldquo;Award my friends that helped me, and Kibbles &rsquo;N Bits for everyone else.&rdquo;<br /><br />Gardner, who is trying to unseat Graham, is making hay about a $290,000 grant for youth mentoring&mdash;the biggest chunk of $1.2 million slated for Austin in the antiviolence program.<br /><br />The group selected for that grant, Kingdom Community, Inc., has close ties to Graham. It&rsquo;s run by her pastor, Rev. John Abercrombie of Truth and Deliverance International Ministries.<br /><br />Graham responds that her opponent is making a stink about nothing. The alderman recommended Circle Family HealthCare Network as Austin&rsquo;s lead agency. Graham insists it was Circle, not her, that chose Kingdom Community for the mentoring.<br /><br />&ldquo;I had no input on who the sub-agencies would be&mdash;none whatsoever,&rdquo; Graham says. &ldquo;I had no idea that they had been selected before the press release came out.&rdquo;<br /><br />Who chose Kingdom Community for the big grant? Andre Hines, Circle&rsquo;s chief executive officer, says the decision was made by a community committee her agency formed. That committee chose most of the Austin groups Circle will oversee in the state&rsquo;s antiviolence program.<br /><br />Hines isn&rsquo;t claiming Kingdom Community will do a better job on the mentoring than any other Austin group would have. &ldquo;The only thing we can do is look at who applied and select the best candidate based on those applications,&rdquo; she says, insisting the process was fair.<br /><br />Kingdom Community isn&rsquo;t the only antiviolence grant recipient in Austin that&rsquo;s raising eyebrows. Learning Network Center, a group chosen to help parents become community leaders, is led by Luther Syas, who circulated signature petitions to get Graham on the 29th Ward ballot.<br /><br />Hines says she had no idea Syas had any ties to the alderman.<br /><br />Austin resident Steven McCullough, who until last year led a large West Side social-service provider called Bethel New Life, says he takes Graham&rsquo;s word she didn&rsquo;t pull strings for either her pastor or the petition circulator. But McCullough says there&rsquo;s still a problem: &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t look good.&rdquo;<br /><br />McCullough, now chief operating officer of a citywide group called the Safer Foundation, says the state has no business letting local politicians steer social-service contracts. &ldquo;What it can lead to is a situation where an organization is perceived to be favored over another organization that delivers similar services or even a higher quality of service,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />McCullough says a transparent process would serve the public better.<br /><br />The ultimate losers, McCullough adds, may include Graham. If her pastor doesn&rsquo;t come through with excellent youth mentoring, he says, &ldquo;a lot of fingers will be pointing at her.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 11 Feb 2011 00:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/29th-ward/state-antiviolence-effort-raises-eyebrows-west-side